Archive for October, 2003

October 23-October 29, 2003 – Karttika

October 29th, 2003


Final Karttika Japa Thoughts

In the evening, I chant while walking on the roof outside my room, gazing at Giriraja. A thought came to me: I look forward to and relish my evening chanting now, but at other times of the year even a few rounds in the evening can be a chore. What am I doing this month that makes the holy name so alive?

The answer came quickly in terms of the core moods and conceptions that I have purposely focused on in Karttika to increase my relish of the holy name:

1. A stable mind: I planned to organize my chanting at times of the day when the mind is especially stable. That usually means in the early morning before the passion of the day starts. At Govardhana, however, the passion of the day never starts.
2. Respect: Offenses distance us from the pure name?especially the offense of sadhu-ninda, the criticism of devotees. I have vowed to vigilantly avoid criticism of devotees, even in jest. Avoiding sadhu-ninda helps to reveal the holy name.
3. Avoiding things unfavorable to bhakti: I must strictly stick to my schedule for writing, studies, and correspondence or they just won?t get done, since the rest of my time is for scheduled chanting. I am, therefore, too busy for frivolous talk and other things unfavorable to devotion. By avoiding those things that impede bhakti, devotion grows without impediment.
4. Saranagata (surrender): I?ve made a conscious decision to accept God?s will in the form of my destiny unconditionally, thus helping me to see my position. I am not the controller of destiny, but a humble servant of my fate. Humility is the foundation of devotion.
5. Guru-nistha (Fixedness in the service of the spiritual master): Devotional activities, even chanting, bear proper fruit only when done for the pleasure of the spiritual master. I?ve renewed my dedication to Srila Prabhupada?s mission. I have no independent life. My residence here and the nature of my spiritual practices are under his direction and solely for his pleasure. That confidence, which is his mercy, enthuses my practices. Guru-nistha is the core devotional sentiment that sustains devotion.

What I Accomplished Here: Not Much

Spiritual life means surrender?to never be independent of guru and Krishna. It can be done in retired life or it can be done in married life, although the activities of that surrender may vary. The main thing is to always do one?s duty and avoid offenses. I don?t work, have a family, manage anything, or even have pressing service like extensive preaching tours or books to edit. What else is there for me to do but chant? If I don?t, I am being independent of guru and Krishna?an un-surrendered soul.

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October 22, 2003 – Karttika

October 22nd, 2003


I realized that I may not be able to keep up a daily Karttika Journal. Writing takes time, and I just don?t have that time this month. I also don?t want my writing to be forced, writing something because I must, rather then because I have something to say. I am mostly alone in my room for the day – then what to write about? – especially as one?s inner life is not always appropriate for a journal. The main thing is I need time, which just isn?t there this month. My strong desire, however, remains to remind devotees of the glories of Vrindaban and spiritual life during the month of Karttika.

October 20, 2003 – Karttika

October 20th, 2003


Parikrama III
I confided to Akincana Krishna that although I thought I had spoken nicely yesterday on our praikrama to Nandagram, and in fact gave most of the lectures, I was most moved by Vaisesika Prabhus?s short talk about Srila Rupa Goswami at Ter Kadamba. I explained to Akincana how after Vaisesika Prabhu?s short talk, I almost felt guilty about not distributing Srila Prabhupada?s books. Surprisingly, Akincana, who admittedly never showed much fervor for preaching, excitedly responded, ?I felt the exact same way!?

Vaisesika Prabhu helped us envision Srila Rupa Goswami sitting at this same scenic Rupa Kund writing his books – books like the Sri Upadesamrita and the Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu. He then gave us an interesting insight, ?An author obviously writes for his audience and strongly wants them to hear his message. Especially, a great teacher writes to share his instructions for the benefit of others. How much pleasure Rupa Goswami must feel when the books he wrote in this lonely place are being distributed and studied throughout the world, and how much mercy we can get by pleasing him in this way.?

Any place where the Lord is intensely worshiped, especially a place of the Lord?s pastimes, has immense potency to invoke not only the presence of the Lord, but also the presence of that devotee who has deeply worshiped Him there. We therefore naturally felt attachment for Srila Rupa Goswami here and strongly desired to please him. Vaisesika Prabhu?s potent insight thus affected us, especially as it was something that Srila Prabhupada had stressed again and again.

October 21 – Karttika

Spiritual Paradoxes
When we don?t chant, it is not a question of time but a question of taste, but if we don?t spend time with the name, then how will we get taste for the name?

When we seek personal enjoyment, then real pleasure escapes us, because the very nature of pleasure is love, which is selfless.

A person who is spiritually advanced thinks they are not very elevated, for tasting the boundless ocean of devotional service, even a drop of it, makes one realize how much unlimitedly more there is to attain.

October 19, 2003 – Karttika

October 19th, 2003

Govardhana / Javat / Nandagram

Parikrama II
I went to Nandagram today with a few visiting devotees. We started at Javat, where Srimati Radharani lived with her so-called husband and in-laws. From there, we sauntered over to Nandagram along the very path she walked with her friends every morning to go to cook for Sri Krishna. At the halfway point, we stopped at Ter Kadamba, a secluded place of incomparable loveliness, where Krishna herds his cows during the day and meets with the gopis at night. It?s the same forest where Srila Rupa Gosvami later wrote of these pastimes in such masterpieces as Lalita-Madhava, Bhakti-rasamritasindhu, and Ujjvala-nilimani.

The walk is scenic and pleasant. I am really enjoying it. I meditate: I am happily walking here and Krishna?s eternal associates were walking here. What?s the difference?

The difference is pure love. The activities in the spiritual world may parallel ours externally, but the eternal residents of Vraja are spontaneously imbued with overwhelming emotion, fixed in thought and heart on the service of Sri Radha, even in the simplest of everyday tasks.

If we develop this love, we too can swim in the greatest joy, even today, by cleansing the temple, cooking for Krishna, or walking in the early morning to Nandagram.

October 17, 2003 – Karttika

October 17th, 2003


Japa Thoughts VI
Chanting inspirational verses before and even during japa is helpful to attentive chanting. We naturally focus best on those objects that we have strong emotions toward. Appropriate verses that invoke attachment for Krishna help us remain absorbed in Krishna in the form of the holy name.

I thus chanted:

tamala syamal tvisi
sri-yasoda stanam-dhaye
krsna namno rudhir iti
sarva sastra-vinirnayah

?The only purport of the holy name of Krishna is that He is dark blue like a tamala tree and is the son of Mother Yasoda. That is the conclusion of all revealed scripture.?

October 16, 2003 – Karttika

October 16th, 2003


Japa Thoughts V
A friend made a simple vow for Karttika: He promised not to criticize anyone. When I thought about his apparently minimal vow, it dawned on me how it could unleash a spiritual dynamic. Sadhu-ninda, the criticism of devotees, is the most serious namaparadha, but the one we are probably most prone to commit. Avoiding it certainly propels us forward in our attempt to chant purely. I therefore decided to also vigilantly avoid criticizing devotees as part of this month?s vow.

This small practice has been an eye opener. By trying to not criticize others, I am realizing how much I do. It?s not that I am caustic and rude, but during a friendly exchange, for example, there is too much joking at the expense of others. I am realizing how subtle and ingrained this offense actually is.

In the Bhagavatam the topmost devotee is defined as one who is free from the propensity to criticize others, which reflects the essence of material consciousness, envy. We are here to compete for lordship, and thus impelled to grossly and subtly put others down.

Srila Jiva Gosvami says some heavy things about criticizing others. ?It?s worse than envy,? he writes, ?for envy is in the heart and criticism is when it comes out.? He also says that it is worse than putting a spear through someone?s body, because a lance can only pierce the body, but criticism can pierce the heart.

A humble suggestion: During the last five days of Karttika, called Bhisma-Pancaka, one can make specific vows and receive the benefit of Karttika. Why not vow to abstain from criticism and observe the fun of the mind struggling with this simple vow?

October 15, 2003 – Karttika

October 15th, 2003

Govardhana / Vrndavana

The Disappearance Day of Srila Narottama dasa Thakura

The appearance and disappearance days of the great acaryas are an opportunity to get their mercy by our worship of them. I try to take advantage of these days with at least some minimal observance. It is a fact that the conduit of mercy from the great souls is our worship and glorification of them, especially on these days. I thus jumped at the invitation of Indradyumna Swami to attend today an initiation ceremony at the Vraja Mohan Mandir, where the original deities of Narottama dasa Thakura from the very first Gaura Purnima festival at Kheturi are now located in Vrndavana.

The Bhakitvedanta Asrama has a very protective spiritual environment. All of your needs are provided in a pure atmosphere free from distraction. I am attached to it, so I have practically avoided leaving the property for the month, even to go Vrndavana.

On the way I notice that, for some reason, our taxi driver wants to diverge from the straight path to Vrndavana to get something for himself. I?m already late, so when he tries to make his detour, I become angry in an effort to get this point across. There is such a disparity between this anger and my peaceful and simple mood in Govardhana that the contrast feels exceptionally pronounced. I sense the anger almost like a poison consuming my body. It dawns on me that if this simple car trip to Vrndavana is such a disturbance in comparison to life in Govardhana, then how am I going to leave its shelter for the West? I have no answer, except that a pure devotee is not even attached to his own peace.

Of course, by leaving one?s bhajana for the service of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, one becomes an object His mercy. And that mercy can certainly carry one to places in his spiritual life that are even unattainable by our peaceful efforts in a life of exclusive sadhana.

It is wonderful to sit at the lotus of feet of Sri Sri Radha Vraja Mohan again. Surprisingly, Maharaja asks me to give the lecture. I speak on accessing the mercy of the guru parampara through service to the mission of the spiritual master. I also comment on how Krishna and his devotee are expert judges of time, place, and circumstance and how the time, place, and circumstances of this initiation are so ideal: Karttika in Vrndavana at the lotus feet of Vraja Mohan on the disappearance day of Srila Narottama dasa Thakura.

Pradip, from Bombay, who is being initiated, is so sincere that when he recites his vows, he spontaneously makes extra promises to not only chant, but to chant attentively, to distribute Srila Prabhupada?s books every week, and to become a servant of the servant of the Vaisnavas. I can?t even remember all of his vows, but I could see that he is a very sincere soul. His chaste wife and beautiful six-year-old son are also sitting next to him. Everyone could feel the auspiciousness of the ceremony.

In tune with the mood and place of the initiation and the special day on which it is being held, Indradyumna Swami responds to the moment. ?Your new name is Narottama dasa Thakura dasa!?

October 14, 2003 – Karttika

October 14th, 2003


Jayadvaita Maharaja and Vaisesika Prabhu are here now, so at least the regular gathering of devotees has arrived. Although everyone here is intensely absorbed in their own services and vows, all of the asrama devotees, young and old, take prasadam together.

I look forward to the pleasant exchanges with the devotees as we gather together for our morning and midday meals. Prasadam that is devotionally prepared and expertly served immediately creates spiritual community and buoys one?s spirits.

After prasadam, the few senior devotees here usually relax and enjoy each other?s company for a short while in Kesava Bharati Maharaja?s room before going back to their services. Today I heard what I can only call:

Krishna?s Believe It Or Not

One of the devotees related a story that left us speechless. His purpose was to highlight how far one who is independent, lacks guidance, and is devoid of sambanda-jnana can digress from the core of our tradition. The story was so unbelievable that I had to confirm it first directly from the source. Here goes:

A book distributor in San Francisco (a devotee now here for Karttika) meets a person on the street who invites him to an initiation ceremony at a Hare Krishna temple down the block?a temple he didn?t even know existed despite the fact that he preaches in the Bay Area. Out of curiosity, he went.

When he arrived he was surprised to see a rtvik initiation going on. The person supposedly initiating on Srila Prabhupada?s behalf, the rtvik priest, was a devotee who was famous in ISKCON in the early ?70s for being quite a ?ksatriya.? I remember hearing of his prowess immediately after joining.

The rtvik priest and former ?ksatriya? is now a cross-dresser. He says he wants to become more balanced by bringing out his feminine side, since ?after all, we are ultimately prakrti (female energy).?

This rtvik priest sometime wears miniskirts during kirtanas, but usually wears a sari to the temple. Today he is dressed in a lady?s Punjabi outfit.

Bhakta John was taking this so-called initiation. As if getting first and second initiation by a so-called rtvik acarya in a Punjabi outfit is not strange enough, today Bhakta John is also taking rtvik sannyasa!

Even more ludicrous was our priest?s speech, which described this bizarre scene as ?a moment in history.? Maharaja, formerly Bhakta John, immediately spoke following the priest?s speech, saying, ?If you are going to do something controversial, why not go all the way??

October 13, 2003 – Karttika

October 13th, 2003


Japa Thoughts V
I caught myself chanting this morning for a while without a specific entreaty. For prayer to be effective, it must be accompanied by an appeal for some form of mercy as in, ?O Lord (Krishna), O energy of the Lord (Radha), please engage me in your service!?

Parikrama I
Mikey and the other devotees who were attending my class in Vrndavana came to visit. We were planning a visit to a few places at Govardhana, but we spent most of our time here at the asrama due to problems with our car. I spoke for several hours on the glories of Govardhana, mostly from the roof of the Bhaktivedanta Asrama. Finally, our car came and we were able to spend an hour at Govinda-kunda absorbed in kirtana.

Our experience: Parikrama in the holy dhama is a very powerful spiritual practice. The association of the holy dhama inspires the chanting of the holy name and the chanting of the holy name manifests the holy dhama. The sincere pilgrim on parikrama therefore experiences a very powerful dynamic because the holy dhama in conjunction with the holy name increasingly manifests each other?s glories.

Sense gratification is external to the self. It is thus not inherently satisfying. We are usually left to either hanker for material enjoyment in the future (passion), or reminisce about it in the past (ignorance). Parikrama (chanting and hearing at the places of the Lord?s pastimes) is completely satisfying to the self. It quickly brings one to spiritual goodness?an absorption in the ?eternal present.? Today I sensed that we were satisfied in the moment, chanting Hare Krishna at the foot of Govardhana.

October 12, 2003 – Karttika

October 12th, 2003


The five kutirs on the roof are gradually filling up as more devotees arrive. That such an ideal facility is not fully utilized simply confirms that ?you cannot just buy a train ticket to Vrndavana.? I?m just puzzled by what I?m doing here.

Japa Thoughts III
The world is not moving my way. It?s moving Krishna?s way. I should be happy about that, but it takes humility to accept that we are not the controller but the controlled. I?ve struggled trying to move the world my way my whole life. How frustrating! Not only does the world not move my way, but ultimately, life based on false ego will be wiped away by the waves of time.

I am praying to chant with humility, to be satisfied with Krishna?s will even when it moves against mine. The service mood is required?happiness with another?s will.

Japa Thoughts IV
When a hungry man eats, their hunger is reduced. The hunger of a devotee for devotional service, however, increases when they try to satisfy it by tasting the holy name. The symptom of spiritual advancement is thus humility?the mood that I am hungry for spiritual life, I am in need of the holy name, and that I have no devotion.

When we are not chanting, we may also feel we have no devotion, but that is not a symptom of spiritual consciousness. It is a fact. If we were actually hungry for the holy name, then we would still chant it, feeling void of devotion.

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